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January 10, 2015

James Blackmon, Jr.

Tom Crean

Emmitt Holt

Troy Williams


Q.  Looks like you guys got off to a slow start.
TROY WILLIAMS:  I would say our defense is what changed the game.  As soon as we picked it up on defense ‑‑ our defense led to our offense, and then after that, everything started to fall into place.  We started to get into our flow.  We started to get scoring runs and getting more and more rebounds and then pushing and starting the break, so defense is what definitely helped us.

Q.  After what happened with Michigan State ‑‑ didn't want to let it happen again?
JAMES BLACKMON, JR.:  I don't think we were thinking about Michigan State.  We just felt like a couple stops would turn it around and that's what happened.

Q.  What was the difference tonight?
TROY WILLIAMS:  I would say my mindset was definitely different, going into Michigan State I didn't have the mind‑set I had going into this game.  It was more just like, I was out of it, just didn't have any edge to me.  In this game and the practices that led up to this game, I decided that's never going to happen again with me and I'm not going to let my team let down again because I know who gives energy to my team the most.  I just came into this game and brought energy to it.

Q.  Can you talk about the bench?
EMMITT HOLT:  Yeah, the bench gave great spark to the game today.  Stan gave us great minutes.  Nick gave us great minutes, and Collin definitely gave us great minutes, and that played into our play today.

Q.  Is this a mental thing, how much‑‑
JAMES BLACKMON, JR.:  You know, I don't think it's really‑‑ I just have to do other things to get me going.  Like today I hit the glass, started rebounding, and that got me going.  I got a couple easy buckets and then I was back in rhythm.  I think that's what happened today.

Q.  Talk about the rebounding effort.  Seemed like quite a priority for you guys today.
TROY WILLIAMS:  Yeah, Coach always tells that when our guards rebound, we usually score most of the time off of that when our guards rebound.  But also, he was just telling me that when I get the rebound, I also start to break, too, and I have to find open people in the corners and in the wing.  So just rebound and starting the break and getting that first step on everybody, that's what really helped.  That's the mind‑set we came in with.

Q.  How much did you focus on board play today?
JAMES BLACKMON, JR.:  Definitely, when Troy is active, things just happen.  He gets a lot of deflections, rebounds, offensive rebounds and we get our push on the ball.  I think he was the one who hit me for that three so that got me going, too.  So when he's playing active and looking for his teammates, things ‑‑ great things happen.

Q.  You responded pretty well from your losses.  How do you play like this with an edge and learning lessons from the losses like Michigan State?
JAMES BLACKMON, JR.:  Practice, really, right after the Michigan State game, we came here to get our edge back, our swagger back.  We just went so hard in practice and it happened tonight in the game, as well. 

Q.  You guys certainly shot better on the free throw line.  Is there a point in this game where you said, we might have to grind this out a little bit and it might not be high‑scoring?
EMMITT HOLT:  Yeah, our shots were not falling for us but we picked up the slack on defense and that really gave us the push that we needed.  Got out on the break.  Got easy buckets.

Q.  Troy, why did you‑‑ the blocked shot‑‑
TROY WILLIAMS:  He got a 7‑1 a wing span‑‑ 7‑6‑‑  it's7‑1.  But no, it is very active on defense.  He's long, athletic.  He's used to the first jump off the defense so he gets the block, so he gets the rebounds and he's just real active down there.

Q.  How comfortable are you in the line since December and how much is that helping you?
EMMITT HOLT:  My first couple games I was pretty rattled, because it was my first big‑time games, so I was a little shook up.  But my teammates really helped me through it and now that I'm in the rotation, real comfortable.
COACH CREAN:  Well, that was a hard‑fought victory and we knew it would be.  Any time you're playing Ohio State, you're going to have to play through a lot of things.  You're going to have to play through some momentum swings and you're going to have to play through some lulls.
They have three seniors in that starting lineup that have won a lot of games, played a lot of minutes and been a part of some incredible experiences.  They have done an excellent job with Marc Loving, and D'Angelo is certainly everything that he's billed to be.  I think we all knew that, as he was coming up in high school.
And Shannon Scott, he played like a ten‑year pro.  I mean, I think he will be.  People forget that he was a McDonald's All‑American and just how good he is, but you've got to go play him again but he is really, really good.
The bottom line in this game is that with his penetration and with his ability to score, we could not put a lot of different help on him because he's such a good passer, and the biggest thing right now when you're playing Ohio State is you have to get back in transition and we didn't do a very good job of that, but we did defend the three and we did defend pretty well.  We knew we needed to win the rebound game; we did by nine.  We wanted to win the free throw attempt game; we won that by one.  We had to have excellent three‑point defensive.
Marc Loving was shooting 62 percent from three on the road.  D'Angelo Russell was shooting, I believe, 53 percent in wins for them from the three.  And to hold those two to one of ten and you add Kam Williams, who is a tremendous shooter in his own right was a key for us.
So not a fluid offensive game, Ohio State, they are not going to give you a fluid offensive game but we found ways to make plays and our offensive rebounding was much better.  We are asking Yogi to do an awful lot and to matchup with a guy with the size and the ability of D'Angelo Russell and to have that matchup for the most part and at the same time have to direct his team, was big.  I thought Robert Johnson did an excellent job defensively.  James Blackmon got better inside of the game.  We are asking him to guard a senior that's quick and can do a lot of different things.  But really, the energy of our team at the key moment when Troy rebounded and defended, and Emmitt came in and gave us some really solid minutes.
Hunter, Hunter did fine‑‑ you said there's too much foul trouble.  Right now, he gets that first and all of a sudden that second is there right away, and we've got to help him with that.  But we've got a lot of good basketball from a lot of guys, but when I say that I think we've got as good a two‑way guard as there is, in the country, being able to play both ends of the court; and Yogi, today is another reason why I that.  And Shannon Scott is tremendous, too, don't get me wrong.
But Yogi wants those challenges.  He wants those‑‑ it doesn't matter the size of the guy.  That's how Victor was.  And you know, when you're the best defender, you've got to go take that.  We mix defenses and things of that nature, but the way D'Angelo Russell has been playing; and for us to know that we have to really plan on him and Marc Loving, I thought our guys handled it well.
And our crowd was great, and our crowd was fantastic and it helped us throughout the entire game.  And it was a game where we helped the momentum a little bit longer and fortunately that helped us.

Q.  A little bit stop/start ‑‑ turned it around.
COACH CREAN:  They did, that's momentum.  You never know where it's going to come from, and we needed some energy at the beginning of the game.  Somebody has to establish their will early on in the game and Ohio State did and we didn't match it and we go to the bench and we did.  Now, with that being said, those guys‑‑ did a great job after that.
And James learned a lot in this game.  James, he's right there on the first couple lines of the scouting report, there's no doubt about that, with the opponent, right.  So everybody knows that he's capable of shooting.  But for him to continue to play when he went back in, he knew he needed to play better defensive, and that's growth for James.
For James to find layups and drive, foul, get three offensive rebounds, that's the growth we've got to have.  And I thought he did a really good job of adjusting, as did Troy.
So Collin and Nick came in and did a fantastic job of getting us going, but Troy and James adjusted to and it they played very well.  Robert just continues to be steady and he's going to continue.  We're asking an awful lot of him and James for young players, with what they need to do.
And certainly they are doing the same with D'Angelo but those guys are keys for us, so you've got to have people that can come in and create that momentum and again, you never know who it's going to be.

Q.  For a team that's struggling with consistent rebounding, what was the mistake‑‑
COACH CREAN:  I don't know, after Louisville, we were plus nine in the rebound margin going into the Michigan State game.  So we made really good improvements there and in that game we didn't rebound it very well at all.  We blocked out decently, but we didn't go to the offensive glass.
Today there was much more of a‑‑ we have to get more offensive rebounding.  We have to be a gang rebounding team on both ends of the court.  So we have to be a really good block‑out team, ball pursuit team on the defensive end.  But our guards have got to get offensive rebounds, okay.  And James is our third leading rebounder, second leading rebounder on the team and he can be a much better offensive rebounder.  Nick has to be a much better offensive rebounder.
Rob, not as much, because really, in this league, and especially we have got to get better in transition defense.  We work very, very hard on it this week.  We work hard on it all the time but we really worked hard on it this week after Michigan State and they still got some.
So you have to be a little bit careful there, but the guys that need to go, they need to go and they need to go, and they need to go consistently.  So I think as that continues to get through, we'll become a better rebounding team, but certainly after Louisville, we made tremendous strides.

Q.  Was there a moment where this group maybe recognized that this was not going to be the fluid shooting performance and maybe had to win at the free throw line and rebounding?
COACH CREAN:  They don't talk like that.  They might think like that but no, I think they learned a lot this week.
In that game at Michigan State, obviously to win a game like today, you have to grow from that, right, because it wasn't going very well for us offensively there, and we missed more open shots in the Michigan State game than we did today ‑‑ in my mind; I may change my mind after seeing the proof in the film, but just after watching the game.
No, I think it's more about momentum than it is that.  It's continuing to play through things constantly and I thought we had hit a little bit of a‑‑ we were losing our energy a little bit and that Troy dunk just brought everybody‑‑ it certainly brought our team up.  Not the dunkthat he had ‑‑ that was a pretty spectacular dunk, too, that he had early off the set play, but now the breakaway, that was big, and I think that helped us.
You need those doses of energy to create more momentum and we just talk about continuing to get good shots.  We just talk about continuing to come off screens.  We just talk about continuing to cut.  We are not talking as much about hitting the shots, not going, let's do this.  They are recognizing that in the game.
But again here is the growth with 18 today, what did he shoot from three, one of five, right?  So all of those other points came because he was hustling, he was getting to the lane, which was putting him at the line and he got some at the end, he got some layups and he had one of the toughest assignments he's ever had in trying to guard Shannon Scott.
I can't say enough about how good Shannon Scott is going to be.  He so much better over the last couple years.  They do a great job of getting their guys better, that's obvious, but he's so much better.  And I wish we could have had a little bit different game plan for him.  But when you've got to guard to the teaming from when you have to guard on that team, knowing that Shannon can make them, too.  But when you have to guard the three, you can't put a lot of double coverage and you can't have a lot of help situations on Shannon Scott, and he took advantage of that.

Q.  Do you think not having that big body ‑‑ on taking Hanner and going small hurts your offense?
COACH CREAN:  I don't know, because we still would have had to guard him a little smaller.  We would have gone with Collin Hartman on him.  He has to guard those people for us and Emmitt is getting better at it‑‑ well, I don't know, I guess there's‑‑ I don't know if it made the difference.
Tata Baneshop (ph) good‑‑ who did he put in for him‑‑ yeah, I tell you, is that the best game‑‑ yeah, he's good, right.  There's a reason he was ranked the way he was.  He's good and he played hard.
So those guys, you know, when they can drive it, I think Tate got us on some drives a couple times.  His job in the Miami Ohio game, had five offensive boards, so you know you've got to block him out.  So I think they can go a lot of different ways.  So I don't know if it affected them at all.  They were hard to guard the entire game.

Q.  With the lanes opening up ‑‑ more drives ‑‑
COACH CREAN:  That's probably true.  I think what happens with Amir, because of the way they blocked shots and the way they get steals.  Their steal percentage and their block percentage is really high.  Their defensive field goal percentage is really high.  We are learning better but we learned in the Louisville game, you don't go in and attack shot‑blockers on the drive.
Amir and Anthony‑‑ Thada would agree, and Anthony Lee has got that in him; but you've got to keep the ball moving when you drive on Amir.  So maybe that affected it a little bit.  I'll have to go back and watch the film.  But I didn't see a dropoff for them.
The biggest thing you have to deal with with Ohio State is how they attack, and they come off the wings, they come off the elbows, they will come out of the corner, they are going to attack the ball, and you've always got to get ready for that with them, and so it's that more than it's anything else no matter how good their front line is.

Q.  At the end of the game, a few minutes left, defense ‑‑ you guys played tough or seemed to ‑‑
COACH CREAN:  Yeah, sure but I think it's like anything else.  It takes time to get it consistent.  We have been getting mentally tougher all year long, right, but it doesn't mean it's consistent.  You know, when it's really there is when it becomes part of who you are.  And we're growing in that, we are definitely growing in that.
I thought our talk improved during the game.  I thought our leadership in the time‑outs improved during the game.  Troy is‑‑ I know when he's locked in, when he's coming up with some things during the game, I'm not filtering it.  I'm saying, okay, let's do it.  Because he sees the game.  You know, he sees the game, he really does.  That's why we're on him so hard to be better because he really has‑‑ he really has tremendous basketball sense.
Now he doesn't always follow his own process sometimes when he's driving the ball and in some of the decisions.  But when he's really locked in, there's different ways, like a time‑out, with him seeing something in the game, that's exciting.  So that's mental toughness, too.
Now the key is did we get that with Iowa‑‑ now the can you play over your own distractions and own disappointment and still keep doing and that's when you really know you're getting mentally tough.

Q.  Following up on that, did you see thatmore where ‑‑
COACH CREAN:  It's always ongoing.  I think when those‑‑ you know like I've said to these guys, if we come out of practice or a game, we are extremely happy and there's not a lot of things to improve upon, I probably need to quit or they need to transfer, seriously.  That's not what I'm here for.  That's not what they need me for.
They need to know‑‑ we need to be in a situation every day where we are holding them accountable for what we see in them, all right, for what we see their capabilities of being, and this program is one that we don't see very many low ceilings.  If saw low ceilings‑‑ I think we are one right behind Kansas in the last three plus years in Top‑25 wins.  So you don't get those wins if you let them hit ceilings, so you just keep pushing it.
So long answer to your question, our leadership can get better, it will get better, we are pushing the envelope with a couple of guys.  Like the comment I made about Troy; when he's locked in and seeing the game, that's leadership, too.  It may not be boisterous out on the court but that's tremendous leadership.
So comes a lot of different ways:  It's not all about verbal; it's not all about (indiscernible); it's not all about back slapping.  A lot of times it's just being able to remind your team of something and I thought they did a good job of thattoday. 

Q.  Stan switched back to shooting free throws left‑handed.  In the Michigan State game, is that a total reversion going to the left hand?
COACH CREAN:  I think Stan is‑‑ I think Stan wants to do well.  Stan is in that gym so much, and he wants to be so good.  And he's like a lot‑‑ here is James Blackmon the other day, we practice, okay, we lift weights and go back in and he shoots.  I said this yesterday at the press conference.  I go recruiting that night, I get back here at about 9:30 and he's out there in full go on that, full gun.  Those kids are in there.
So Stan wants to do well, and he's getting better.  He's more comfortable with it right now.  I didn't tell him to switch to his right hand, all right, and again, my bottom line is, okay, let's shoot it with the proper form, proper technique.  But it needs to go in, okay, and I thought when he hit it ‑‑ that's progress.

Q.  Why did Troy ‑‑ in the game ‑‑
COACH CREAN:  Because he was embarrassed about the way he played.  He's got a lot of internal pride, and he listens.  He's growing up.  So the mental toughness part of it‑‑ does that mean he's going to play well on Tuesday night?  I wish it did.  That's part of the youth part of this, it doesn't mean that.  But he's not rationalizing, okay.
We talk to these guys about fact and fiction.  There's a lot of fiction out there.  They can hear it; they can read it in the sense of social media, and they can hear it from somebody telling them, you're this, you're that, you should be doing this, you should be doing that.
The film and the practices, now that's the facts what you're doing, and Troy is doing a better job of that.  He's doing a better job of really trying to embrace it.  His uncle is doing a very good job and his aunt who coaches at Auburn, they do a really good job of keeping him with the clarity, and that's what young players, any player needs, and especially when you're growing into being the player that he is, you need that constant clarity, because he's going to get it in here and he's got to keep getting it.
But he responded to the challenge.  He didn't play the end of the game on Monday night for a long time like that, and he responded to that, so I'm glad they did.

Q.  You talked about that they are really hard to guard, so how big is it that you held them to 34percent shooting?
COACH CREAN:  That's even bigger on the 3 point shooting to me because of the way they were shooting the three.  That's big.  I'm sure that‑‑ and I'll look at the film and say, okay, they missed some they usually make, that's how I felt at Michigan State, and their defense was phenomenal.
I don't know if our defense was phenomenal, I know there was a lot of really good intent, and we'll grade it after we watch it but the bottom line is we have really good intent and we were locked in.  There was‑‑ we couldn't make it easy for their scores and they found some things they liked and we had to make some adjustments just like we found some things we liked and they made their adjustments and that's part of it.
But couldn't let D'Angelo‑‑ Marc Loving's numbers are how good they are when he's on a roll, and we couldn't let that happen and when you prepare for them right now, you've got to be as concerned about loving shooting as you do about D'Angelo and Russell shooting.
At the same time you know you're looking at it with Shannon Scott and saying, that's the guy that makes it really go.  And Sam's capable, he's getting better all the time.  So I think the way we defended the three and the way we were able to win the rebound game will be the biggest things for us.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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